Rabbi Rant: There’s a Jewish Holiday This Week

rabbi rant

This Saturday night is Tisha B’Av, a holiday that is less familiar to many American Jews. On Tisha B’Av, we commemorate the major Jewish calamities that happened on this day, most significantly the destruction of the two Temples. The loss of our “religious home” was coupled with the loss of our actual homes. As we read in Lamentations 5:2, “Our heritage has passed to aliens, our homes to strangers.” Tisha B’Av, then, is also a time to think about being away from the places, people and feelings we associate with home.

I recently got back from a three-week vacation to Tanzania, so, naturally, I’ve been thinking a lot about traveling and being away from home. The Sfat Emet, a late-19th-century chassidic rabbi in Poland, says that humans are called “travelers” because we “need to always travel from one level to the next level.” Journeys, he says, disrupt our sense of rest and complacency, compelling us to grow.

I don’t take many vacations, certainly not for three weeks at a time, so this past month, I decided it was time to push myself to travel. It was certainly a disruption from my comfortable life here – I climbed Kilimanjaro, “safari-ed” in the Serengeti, and explored Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar. These experiences helped me grow in powerful ways that I’m still processing and trying to understand.


But being “on the go” doesn’t necessarily lead to growth. Traveling can easily become aimless wandering. That’s why, according to the Sfat Emet, we need to balance our “journeys” with our “encampments,” just like the ancient Israelites in the desert. Life is about vacillating between states of rest and restlessness.

Each of us tends to prefer one state over the other. Some yearn to wander, associating it with freedom, the opposite of being “tied down.” Others yearn to feel more grounded, associating wandering with God’s curse to Cain after he kills his brother – “You shall become a ceaseless wanderer on earth.” (Genesis 4:12). This may be a grass-is-greener situation – those who seek to wander often feel stuck, and those who seek to set down roots often feel lost. But I think all of us have both voices within ourselves.

Perhaps, then, Tisha B’Av is a day to confront the downsides of journeying and to make a little space for the part of ourselves that longs for a greater sense of home.

Even Cain, cursed to ceaselessly wander, ultimately settles down, in the land of Nod. Rashi, the famous French commentator on the Torah, explains the apparent contradiction: “Nod is a city of wandering exiles.”

DC can sometimes feel like Nod – a transient city full of wanderers and world travelers. We push off getting our DC license or registering to vote in DC, telling ourselves we’ll only be here for a year or two. We live here, but it’s not home.

Although we may not permanently settle in DC, our lives don’t need to be completely unsettled. Tisha B’Av can be an opportunity to ask ourselves:

  • How can we incorporate more of a sense of stability into our lives?
  • Where have we avoided making commitments, fooling ourselves into thinking we can be just as invested without that commitment?
  • How can we feel more at home, not just in DC but within ourselves?

Tisha B’Av is a day of mourning.  There is sadness and pain in confronting the ways we’ve wandered too much or too far. But Yom Kippur is just two months away, calling us to return to ourselves, to return home.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Eli: Jewish Article Lover of the Week!

Next week, Eli Feldman is launching our community’s first-ever Jewish Monthly Article Club, AKA: JMAC. This week, we give you the chance to get to know the fascinating man behind the club. Spoiler: He really likes articles.


Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Eli: Two years ago, I was living back home in the Bay Area in California, and was applying to jobs. I only applied to one job outside of California – which is where I am now (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, AKA: FIRE).

Allie: How is DC different from the Bay Area in Cali?

Eli: 1) The weather. There is basically no winter in California.

2) The speciality of what organizations are here. The Bay Area is dominated by startups and private tech companies, whereas DC has a big non-profit presence.

3) The Cali stereotype is that everyone is laid back and relaxed. I actually think DC is more similar to this than other places across the Northeast, like New Jersey and New York. But, DC is certainly much more fast-paced than where I’m from.

Allie: Describe your perfect day in DC.

Eli: I’d wake up, eat breakfast, and do a little email or planning for the week. Then, I would get brunch at The Diner in Adams Morgan with some of my friends. After that, I’d go work at a coffee shop, work out, and go out to dinner at somewhere like Beau Thai in Mt Pleasant or SEI. After dinner, I’d host game night for some of my friends. And I’d be in bed before midnight!

Allie: I hear you are about to launch something called the Jewish Monthly Article Club (JMAC). How did you decide to start this?

Eli: I’ve been wanting to host an article club since I moved to DC. I felt like I didn’t have a group to be a part of where we could have long-form, organized discussion about important topics. I had this in college, and I missed it. Nearing the end of my time in GatherDC’s Open Doors Fellowship, I realized this was a niche that I could help fill in DC.

Allie: What do you hope people get out of being a part of JMAC?

Eli: I hope that people get to explore a topic they might not have had an opinion on before, and can learn from other people’s perspectives. I hope it can be a somewhat consistent group so we can develop a close-knit community. I hope it becomes something people look forward to, and that we can engage in lively, but respectful discussions.

Allie: Speaking of respectful discussion, what is one thing you would change about the way people in the U.S. talk about politics?

Eli: When people hear something they disagree with, I wish instead of jumping off and hurling an insult, they would say, “That’s so interesting, what makes you feel that way?” This is totally disarming to people and could instantly change the national dialogue dramatically.

Also, intellectual humility is important. No matter how much you know about a topic or how strong your views are, it is so important to know that you could always be wrong and someone else could always be right. Also, even if you hear an argument and 100% still disagree with it, the ability to say, “Okay. That perspective doesn’t make me good and you bad, or me right and you wrong. We just disagree and it’s good to know where the areas are that we disagree.”


Allie: What kinds of topics do you want to discuss in JMAC?

Eli: I want to cover topics that are not the standard political moral or battle points. I don’t want to talk about gun rights, abortion, or taxes. I’d like the articles we read to focus on niche topics that matter like privacy protections or the style of voting in our society.

Allie: How will you make sure this is a safe space for people who have different political views or perspectives than most of their friends in DC?

Eli: I will be moderating the discussion, and will try to guide it in a respectful way. I led discussions in college for a mental health awareness group, and I know how to get people to think broadly about topics without letting my opinions be known.

Allie: Have you embarked on any fun travel adventures this summer?

Eli: I just got back from a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords with my parents and three out of my four siblings. It was a total blast, and provided much needed respite from the day-to-day grind of DC.

Allie: What’s on your travel bucket list?

Eli: I want to do more domestic travel. I’d like to take a trip to Seattle and Chicago, I’ve never really been to the midwest.

Allie: Who is the coolest Jew you know?

Eli: Josh Neirman. He is a past GatherDC Open Doors Fellow. He takes everyone under his wing. He has such a warm, kind presence. I would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t have a glowing view of Josh’s personality.

Allie: What is your guilty pleasure?

Eli: I’m not guilty about it, but I’ll say reading comic books. I started getting into the Marvel movies in college, so I thought I’d pick up the comic books and give it a try. Now I have a massive stack of comics on my shelf.

Allie: What’s something that people may not know about you?

Eli: I taught myself how to code by taking a couple of online courses my senior year of college.

Allie: When are you the happiest?

Eli: When I’m hanging out with my friends at a brunch or game night, or when I’m in the middle of my work out at the gym and my heart is pumping and I’m totally forgetting what’s happening in the outside world.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Eli: They schmooze.

eli feldman


Want to nominate your amazing Jewish friend to be featured on GatherDC? Send his/her name, brief blurb, and contact info to info@gatherdc.org.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Jewish Dog of the Month: Tabitha!

Due to the overwhelming response to our “Jewish Dog of the Month” feature, we are excited to announce that we will now be showcasing adorable pups EVERY OTHER WEEK! Email Allie Friedman to nominate your favorite dog (or cat!) .

This month, we say *WOOF WOOF* to Marcy Spiro‘s beloved pup, Tabitha. 

doggy of week


Sarah: What is your name?

Tabitha: Tabitha, but my mom has A TON of nicknames for me. Tabby, Tabby Tabs, Taberella, etc.

Sarah: Where did your name come from?

Tabitha: The lovely people at Lucky Dog Animal Rescue named me Tabitha. When I lived in South Carolina, my name was Beverly. But, I try to forget both that name and the bad times I had while living there.

Sarah: What is your favorite food?

Tabitha: I love salty foods, just like my mama! Multigrain Tostitos and saltine crackers are my faves.

Sarah: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?

Tabitha: So, I think it’s actually the best compliment my dog mommy received…when her boss told her that we look alike!

Sarah: What is your favorite thing to do when you think no one is looking?

Tabitha: I may or may not have flipped over the garbage can and dragged stuff all through the house…three times.

Sarah: Who is your best friend?

Tabitha: Besides my humans? I guess, my dog uncle who I get to see whenever we drive to Rochester, New York to visit my mom’s parents. He’s a bichon poo, and we love chasing each other all around the house.

tabby the dog and marcy

Sarah: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday and why?

Tabitha: Since my mom works for a Jewish organization, she’s not home for a lot of the holidays. But, one she is always home for is Hanukkah. I love all the Hanukkah lights, the blessings, and sufganiyot. Since my mom doesn’t like jelly donuts, she usually gets cream filled ones, and I get a little cream filling on the tip of my nose!

Sarah: My biggest fear is….

Tabitha: That my mommy leaves me and doesn’t come back. Whenever she leaves I wait by the door and sometimes whine. And when she gets home, I jump and dance, and squeak with excitement until I get some quality tummy time from her.

Sarah: I get most excited when…

Tabitha: …my mommy comes home! Lately, I’ve also started to enjoy hearing the harmonica and singing along.

Sarah: What is your spirit animal?

Tabitha: Remember the original Jurassic Park movie? Well that Velociraptor and I have a lot in common if you disturb me when I’m sleeping.




About the Author: Sarah Brennan

Sarah grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida and graduated from The University of Rhode Island with a degree in Communications in 2012. After graduating, she lived in Israel until 2016 where she got her M.A. in Government from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and worked as an Intelligence Analyst at Cycurtiy Ltd. She moved to DC in May 2016 and works at AIPAC on their Policy & Government Affairs team. In her spare time, she enjoys 305 fitness classes, horseback riding, and traveling.




The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Aaron: Jewish Bagel Lover of the Week!

Want to nominate your amazing Jewish friend to be featured on GatherDC? Send his/her name, brief blurb, and contact info to info@gatherdc.org.

In case you’ve been wondering how – and from where – to order the perfect bagel, look no further. Aaron Browner has your answer.


Allie: What brought you to DC?

Aaron: I’ve been in the DC area my whole life. I grew up in Rockville and then went to Towson University. After graduating, I moved back home, then moved out to Bethesda on Battery Lane. Since I loved DC so much, I finally decided to move into the District in December 2017. I moved to the wonderful West End neighborhood. I’m in sales for CEB, now Gartner, which is a best practice and research advisory firm in Rosslyn.

Allie: Describe your perfect day in DC.

Aaron: I wake up and make a smoothie using my Vitamix – I make a green smoothie with chocolate almond milk, plant-based protein powder, spinach, kale, banana, avocado. Then, I’ll go to the gym at Equinox where I’ll either take a yoga class or swim. After that, it’s off to the Dupont Farmers Market where I’ll meet up with friends, walk around and sample all the freebies I can get my hands on. A perfect day has to include working on my tan by hanging out at my rooftop pool then top things off at night, by meeting up with friends at dinner – my favorite place is Gringos & Mariachis – a Mexican joint in Bethesda!

Allie: Do you have a favorite Jewish food?

Aaron: I can’t just pick one. But, I am a self-proclaimed bagel snob. At the Dupont Circle Farmers Market I’ve found a place called Call Your Mother – that’s the best bagel I’ve had in DC. I also run a club called Bagel Friday at my office.

Allie: A bagel club? That sounds amazing! Go on…

Aaron: Yeah, there’s about 40 members in the group. Every Friday morning, two people are assigned to bring bagels and cream cheese from a real bagel place like Bethesda Bagels or Brooklyn Bagel Bakery. It can’t just be Cosi or Panera. People get really excited about it.

Allie: Which bagels do the bagel club members like best?

Aaron: Brooklyn Bagel Bakery in Arlington is really popular and Bethesda Bagel in Dupont is a close second amongst the group. I hosted a bagel brunch on my rooftop a few weeks ago where we brought in bagels from different places around the city, with a spread of whitefish and salmon salad, lox, eggs, veggies, and all different types of shmear. Call Your Mother was the fan favorite there. Right now, they are only available on Sunday at the Dupont Farmers Market, and they sell out quick. They are worth it. Looking forward to when they open up a store later this summer!

aaron person of the week

Allie: What is your favorite bagel place?

Aaron: My favorite place is Absolute Bagels in NYC. They’re always served fresh, right out of oven. They’re the perfect combination of being crunchy on outside, and soft on the inside. My parents are I have been going there for years with my cousin and friends and now call it “the Bagel Tour” when we visit NYC. After we get bagels, we head to Silver Moon Bakery for fresh challah, and then down the street to Nussbaum & Wu’s for classic black and white cookies.

Allie: What is your perfect bagel?

Aaron:  A sesame seed bagel, hot out of the oven, and topped with creamy whitefish salad.

Allie: What is a skill you want to learn this year?

Aaron: I want to take a cooking class. I’m really into cooking but have never taken an actual class. Learning how to make fresh and handmade pasta is at the top of the list.  

Allie: What do you like to cook?

Aaron: Crispy chicken cutlets topped with marinara sauce, and a salmon dish on my cast iron with honey garlic sauce. Lamb meatballs, turkey quinoa meatballs with spinach and basil, and Greek meatballs with spicy marinara are some of my go-to recipes.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to relax after a long day in the office?

Aaron: Yoga. After a yoga class is the time when I feel like I’m most relaxed and at peace.

Allie: Who is the coolest Jew that you know?

Aaron: I’m a huge Billy Joel fan. I’ve seen him in concert a number of times. He still puts on a great show at almost 70 years of age. I’ve always dreamed of being a rock star, but unfortunately I’m an awful singer (so I’ve been told).

Allie: Do you have a favorite smell?

Aaron: Lavender essential oil. I’m really big into scents. Even when I was a kid, I was really into fragrances and scents. Embarrassingly, I would carry a bar of soap around the house as a toy when I was five years old.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Aaron: They will be schvitzing due to the DC heat.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Spotted in Jewish DC: A Vegan Egg McMuffin!

In today’s crazy universe, the idea that we are moving towards a better tomorrow can at times seem, well, kind of hopeless.

The values that I care about most deeply are often left unprotected by my government.

The natural world is being destroyed daily by greed.

I could go on ad infinitum (but I won’t, because it’s way too depressing).

This week, I felt a genuine glimmer of hope that I have not experienced in far too long – all thanks to a tiny bean.

Specifically, the mung bean.

The mung bean, a plant species in the legume family from South Asia and Africa (great trivia fact), is the basis of Just Egg, a brand new vegan product that looks, tastes, and scrambles just like real egg (and no, this company is not paying me to say any of this. But, I mean, if they’re looking for an awesome brand ambassador – they can totally slide into my DMs).


Someone who does get paid to eat and make delicious foods, AKA José Andrés, said of the Just Egg, “It’s not every day you see something that blows your mind.”

I spotted this miraculous product at Equinox, the DC-based restaurant owned by Jewish couple Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray that is now – no big deal or anything – the only East Coast location to feature Just Egg on their menu!

Due to my being married to The Avocadbro, I was lucky enough to accompany him to Equinox last week for a private event where we had the pleasure of being some of the first to take a bite out of the Just Egg (life goals).

We were completely blown away.

I watched a chef scramble up this liquid product, resembling liquid carton eggs, right in front of my eyes. As someone who is new to veganism, egg-based dishes have long been one of my favorite ways to get the protein I need without sacrificing taste or adding tons of calories. Finding a nutritious replacement for eggs when transitioning to a plant-based diet was challenging, because to be honest, even the best tofu scramble just won’t cut it sometimes. And yeah, I make a really good tofu scramble.

Pause here.

For those of you who have made it this far into the article, first – I’m very impressed with your attention span. Second, here’s a quick background on my recent transition to veganism: As someone who is deeply passionate about living according to my Jewish values, the transition to eating plant-based this past year felt pretty seamless. It all started after I decided to marry a hardcore vegan who loves spending Sunday mornings eating stacks of vegan pancakes while watching intense Netflix documentaries about the food industry (we’re really cool). So, after watching one too many documentaries, I was “woke” to what goes on behind the scenes at food companies, and could never look at food the same again. Plus, thanks to the amazing DC-based organization Jewish Veg, I realized that plant-based eating and Jewish living go hand-in-hand. I learned how veganism is one way to express our shared Jewish values of compassion, protection for the environment, and concern for our physical and spiritual well-being – every single day.

The minute I walked into Equinox last Tuesday morning, and looked around to see a room full of wide-eyed idealists, chefs, and social media influencers, all with a profound passion for a better world, my eyes started to water (no joke, it was quite embarrassing). I held back tears as I anxiously introduced myself to some of the best and brightest people in the plant-based business, including co-founder of JUST (the company behind Just Egg) Josh Balk and the director of upcoming documentary Meat the Future, Liz Marshall. My cynical soul began crashing down at the site of so many brilliant minds joining together to eat a vegan egg on a toasted, buttery English muffin. Because to me, that egg sandwich we were happily devouring was so much more than the sum of its mung bean, vegan mayo, and Daiya cheese parts. It was as if we were biting into the future.

So, whether you are a diehard carnivore, cheese lover (no judgment, jumbo slice pizza is definitely one of the best meals in DC), or devout vegan, I hope we can all be excited about the possibility of a brighter future for our planet.

A future where all beings, regardless of where they come from or what species they are, can be treated with love.

Learn more about Just Egg here.

vegan egg


About the Author: Allison Friedman is the Communications Director for GatherDC. When she’s not at work, you can find her hiking in the great outdoors, enjoying weekend getaways in Bethany Beach and trying out new vegan recipes. She lives in the rolling hills of Cleveland Park with her husband, The Avocadbro.



The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

A Kurdish Shabbat Experience!

On Friday, July 13th, my organization Sephardic Jews in DC, in partnership with OneTable and JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa), will be hosting a traditional Shabbat dinner featuring delicious homemade kosher Kurdish food and a panel of phenomenal speakers.

This panel is composed of those who have lived and worked in Kurdistan, and a Jew whose family lived in Iranian Kurdistan for many generations. Together, they will discuss the Jewish history of the Kurdish land, their struggle for independence, and why we as American Jews should care about the future of the Kurdish people.kurdish food

My first experience with the Kurdish Jewish people happened very serendipitously. Many years ago, a friend of mine suggested going to the Azura restaurant in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market to try their delicious Turkish food. As a Sephardic Jew of Turkish and Greek descent, I was excited to try out the food and practice my Ladino. Upon entering the homey restaurant, I spotted several very unique dishes. Some of these foods looked familiar to me, but other dishes looked like nothing I had ever seen before. My friend introduced me to the owner of the restaurant and told him I was a fellow Turkish Jew. I said hello to the owner with a Ladino greeting, and he replied back in a Kurdish dialect, which is a version of Judeo-Aramaic. My intrigue at the language he spoke led to a captivating conversation about his Kurdish heritage. From that moment on, I became deeply fascinated with the history of the Kurdish Jews.

Who are the Kurds? How did Jews get to Kurdistan? Where are they now? I had so many questions, and turned to the internet to help me get the answers I craved.

I learned that the Kurds are recognized as the largest stateless national group in the world. Although the vast majority of the 30 million Kurds in the world are Sunni Muslims, the Kurdish people also include many other faiths and religions due to the large area they inhabit.

kurdistan map

According to The Kurdish Project,

“After losing the opportunity for statehood post-WWI, the Kurds now exist as an ethnic minority spread out between Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, and strive to maintain a culture that has been rapidly absorbed by their host countries. Borne from a long history of strife, Kurdish culture places value on individual freedoms. Whether it be overt religious tolerance, strides towards equality in the status of women, or democratic government, Kurdish culture values individual life and has fiercely defended its ability to live free from external rule.”

The Kurdish Project goes on to explain that over the years, Kurds have been targeted by various governments, for reasons ranging from lack of religiosity, to living on land with natural resources, and other border disputes.

Does this story and history sound familiar? Parallels between the Jews and Kurds have been drawn as early as the Ottoman Empire. Their struggle for independence mirrors one another in many ways.

The history of the Kurdish Jews can be traced back to the Israelites of the tribe of Benjamin. This tribe first arrived in the area of modern Kurdistan after the Assyrian conquest of the Kingdom of Israel during the 8th century BC. During this time, many Jews settled in rural and remote mountainous areas. Unlike the Jews in Europe and parts of the Middle East, many Kurdish Jews worked in agrarian occupations such as farming and trading. Kurdish Jewish society was mostly traditional and observant, but occasionally communicated with outside Jewish populations, such as Israel.  

In many cases, Kurdish Jews merged Jewish customs with local tradition. This can be seen in Kurdish food, which reflects local food of their region that is cooked in accordance with the laws of kashrut. The majority of Kurdish Jews, who were concentrated in northern Iraq, left Kurdistan during Operation Ezra and Nehemiah (a mass emigration of Iraqi Jews to Israel) of 1950-52. This brought almost all Iraqi Jews to Israel, and meant the end of a long Jewish history in places once known as Assyria and Babylon.

kurdish food

Despite facing many challenges after arriving in Israel, the Kurdish immigrants started assimilating into mainstream Israeli culture within a single generation. Israel, in turn, began to absorb some of the Kurdish culture and cuisine. For example, the popular Kurdish dumpling soup called Kubbeh, is now a national Israeli dish. Today, Kurdish Jewry is deeply zionist and settled mainly in Jerusalem.

However, The Yale Israeli Journal explains that even after living much of their lives in Israel, many Israeli Kurds deeply connect with their native Kurdistan, and strive for an independent Kurdish state.

Next Friday, we will come together for a Shabbat dinner to learn more about the Kurds’ compelling history and enjoy their traditional foods. This dinner is open to everyone!

Please register here ASAP as space is limited.




Jackie FeldmanAbout the Author: Jackie Feldman is the founder of Sephardic Jews in DC, a group that hosts events for young professionals in DC in celebration of Sephardic culture, food, and religious traditions. She is the author of the food blog, Healthy Sephardic Cooking that features a healthier spin on many traditional Jewish and Sephardic recipes and teaches classes on Sephardic cuisine and cooking in DC. When she’s not busy cooking or hosting, she enjoys painting, yoga, watching Seinfeld, and anything to do with International Affairs.




The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Stephanie: Jewish Social Media Rockstar of the Week!

Stephanie Arbetter is a DC social(media)ite with a whole lot of Southwestern flair. Hailing from Dallas, Texas, this quick-witted, outgoing, cocktail loving lady is one you should definitely get to know. Lucky for you, we got the exclusive 1:1 right here.

Oh, and after you read this, you should check out Stephanie’s secondary persona TipsyTipsDC. Because, well, she has a lot of tips on getting tipsy in DC.

stephanie with popsicle

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Stephanie: I’m originally from Dallas, Texas. I moved to DC because I wanted to get involved in the travel and tourism industry, and there are a lot of opportunities for that in DC.

Allie: Is DC a lot different from Dallas?

Stephanie: Everybody in DC has come here because they are very passionate about something. They are very driven and dedicated to their jobs, and they are interested and focused on personal development. I really like how worldly and cultured DC is.

Allie: What is your favorite social media platform and why?

Stephanie: Twitter. I’m obsessed with Twitter. That’s primarily where I get my news. I think people are more raw and unfiltered on it; you get a sense for what people are really thinking. Instagram is a little more fake. But I love Instagram stories. I stopped doing SnapChat. Facebook is a little too public, so I keep my content closer to my vest on Facebook. It’s great for big news that you want everyone to see.steph with friends

Allie: What’s the secret to a great Instagram post?

Stephanie: The people who stand out are the ones who are most authentic. People have a really good sense of knowing what’s fake and who’s trying too hard. Also, if you have to ask if this is too much or if this is oversharing, it probably is.

Allie: How do you balance living in the present and being on social media?

Stephanie: Take one or two pictures, and then put your phone away and enjoy the moment. Do not take pictures throughout your meal or your trip. Do not have your phone out with you when you’re trying to experience a hike, or a waterfall, or a sunset. It sucks when you have your phone and you’re just waiting for that perfect moment, so you can’t enjoy it.

Allie: What are you doing for the 4th of July?

Stephanie: I am going to my friend’s pool party, and then I am hosting a few friends on my rooftop because I live near the National Mall. You can see the fireworks from my rooftop. I love the Fourth of July. I love that everyone just takes a break and enjoys themselves.

Allie: If you could have 3 celebs in your entourage, who would they be and why?

Stephanie: Mindy Kaling, because she’s super funny and I feel like we’d be best friends. Lin-Manuel Miranda, because I’d be entertained all the time. Malcolm Gladwell, because he’s so smart and would keep me thinking and guessing all the time.

Allie: Do you have any goals for your year ahead?

Stephanie: There is something in DC for anything you are interested in, but it’s really on you to take advantage on that. I want to better take advantage of DC and get involved in different nonprofit and Jewish organizations this year.

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday and why?

Stephanie: Yom Kippur. I love that everyone just disconnects, and at the end everyone comes together. While it’s really serious, it’s also really festive and full of traditions. Break the Fast is one of my favorite things every year. I love that on Yom Kippur you can take a day to be for yourself.

Allie: Who is the coolest Jew you know?

Stephanie: Josh Malina, he’s just awesome.

Allie: If you could eat at only 3 DC restaurants forever, what would they be?

Stephanie: Rasika. I love their Chicken tikka masala. Zaytinya. Le Diplomate, they have the best burger and fries. I’m a major foodie, and I also love cocktail bars like The Gibson and Morris Bar. I have a cocktail Instagram account called TipsyTipsDC.

steph with drink

Allie: What are you most excited about this summer?

Stephanie: Fun travel plans. I’m going to Vermont, Dallas, and Chicago. And this winter I’m going on a volunteer trip with JNF to Israel!

Allie: Complete this sentence, when Jews of DC Gather…

Stephanie: Someone always starts Jewish geography.




The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Jewish Dog of the Month: Bailey

This tiny-pawed puppy is on a mission to brighten the days of every Jewish young adult across the DMV, one tail wag at a time. 

Oh, and Bailey wanted us to give a huge “MAWWZEL TOV!” to her parents on their recent engagement, and hopes to walk down the aisle at their wedding. Oh, and nbd or anything, but his parents met at a GatherDC happy hour

puppySarah: What is your name?

Bailey: Bailey, aka Bails, Bailush, Bailseybubs and many nicknames of the sort.

Sarah: What breed of dog are you?

Bailey: I’m a King Charles Cavalier.

Sarah: How did you get to DC?

Bailey: When I was only 8 weeks old, Daddy surprised Mommy with me for her birthday! He told her to get in the car for a drive. He kept driving…and driving…and driving until they ended up at my first home in Richmond! Mommy said I was the best surprise and present she ever got.

Sarah: What is your favorite food?

Bailey: Turmeric! Mom and Dad put it in my dinner every night. I dunno, I guess it’s healthy for pups or something. But it turns my nose yellow, which looks pretty silly. Besides that, mulch. Lots and lots of mulch. I just can’t ever seem to eat enough of it, no matter how much Mom and Dad try to stop me.

Sarah: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?

Bailey: People tell me all the time that I made their day with my cute face. Some people say they were having a bad day till they saw me, and I brightened it up for them! Even some people say, “I don’t even like dogs…but you are the cutest thing in the world”

Sarah: Who is your best friend?

Bailey: Sunny. No, Nikko. No, Lola. No, Sunny, definitely Sunny. I’m gunna be honest, and I hate to be cliche, but I really do love everyone. Human, dog, cat, bird…you name it. I just wanna play with everyone.

Sarah: What is your biggest pet peeve that your owner does?

Bailey: Ugh, they’re always sticking their hands in my mouth to get out the huge assortment of random items I find on the ground! From plastic caps to metal screws to rubber bands to mulch. It’s so annoying!

Sarah: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday and why?

Bailey: I haven’t gotten to experience all of the Jewish holidays yet, I’m just a baby! I’ve only been around 4 months. But, I can’t wait for Hannukah. I hear we get lots of gifts! Any excuse for more bones and toys to chew on sounds great to me! I’m also looking forward to Yom Kippur, to atone for my sins of peeing in the house on an almost daily basis, despite Mom and Dad’s best efforts of taking me out 7+ times daily.

Sarah: I get most excited when…

Bailey: I hear the sound of my dog food bag and I know a meal is coming! Or when Mom and Dad come home from work, so I can play with them all night long with my nonstop energy.


About the author: Sarah Brennan grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida and graduated from The University of Rhode Island with a degree in Communications in 2012. After graduating, she lived in Israel until 2016 where she got her M.A. in Government from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and worked as an Intelligence Analyst at Cycurtiy Ltd. She moved to DC in May 2016 and works at AIPAC on their Policy & Government Affairs team. In her spare time, she enjoys 305 fitness classes, horseback riding, and traveling.

Want to nominate a dog? Email Sarah!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

A Toli Moli Shabbat!

burmese foodA typical Shabbat in DC is perhaps one of the hardest things to describe about this city.

A DC Shabbat can be anything from a service at one of the several synagogues across town, a vegan dinner of buddha bowls and trolley fries at the 100% plant-based Pow Pow (nourished by OneTable), or perhaps a dinner of coconut noodles and tea leaf salad at a Burmese bodega in Union Market.

The diversity of Shabbats in DC, and the opportunity for each of us to create these dinners and push the boundaries even further, are some of my favorite qualities of DC. Plus, these Shabbats give us the chance to be introduced to wonderful new food and people.

The latter Shabbat experience of a Burmese bodega was exactly where I found myself last Friday, seated around a table of people hungry for an adventure to Burma (also known as Myanmar).

Toli Moli, which means “a little of this and a little of that,” is the Burmese snack shop from mother-daughter team Simone Jacobson and Jocelyn Law-Yone (Chef Jojo) where this Shabbat took place. And a little of this, and a little of that, is just what these two women brought to the table. Throughout the evening, Simone and Jocelyn provided us with a warmth of hospitality and family stories along with every delicious bite.

toli moli owners

L’dor va’dor is a commonly sung prayer that means “from generation to generation.” In Judaism, passing down traditions is an integral part of the religion – from your family’s favorite matzo ball soup to the way you fold your hamataschen – food is one of the best vehicles to transport these customs. The practice of l’dor va’dor is a global concept, and one that inspired this Shabbat evening with OneTable, JDC Entwine, and Toli Moli. Unbeknownst to the organizers when planning the event, Toli Moli is not only an intergenerational concept, but also one with a strong Jewish connection!

As the only Burmese eatery in DC, Simone sees Toli Moli as not just a legacy for her own family, but also for her heritage. Growing up in Arizona with a Burmese mom and a Jewish dad, Simone’s Asian-American appearance gave her a sense of pride and provided her with a way to connect with similar people. Although Simone’s childhood best friend (who was of Thai-American descent) may not have grown up eating falooda like she did, her friend’s Thai heritage had a similar concept with Nam Manglak and the more familiar bubble tea.

Seen as an “international connector” and the foundation for Toli Moli, falooda is a fruity-layered dessert made with jellies, basil seeds, milk, and ice cream. The bodega of Toli Moli is stocked with falooda, as well as Asian pantry items, locally made DC products and, of course, a Burmese menu full of noodles and sandwiches.

By bringing falooda, a dessert that is eaten all around the world, to DC, Toli Moli creates an environment where everyone can feel at home.

Toli Moli is a place where everyone can find connections both to the food and to the intergenerational family that welcomes you as soon as you step inside – a place where everyone can have their own “toli moli moment”.



About the Author: Judith Rontal  hails from wintry Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she grew up in a family that always managed to eat dinner together, even if that was at 10 pm. She’s continued that connection between food, family and culture in her blog, Aluminum Foiled Kitchen, and in her daily life in DC where she works in PR, focusing on media relations. When not in the kitchen working on a new recipe to serve at her next dinner party, you can find Judith sweating it out at yoga or running the Rock Creek Park trails. Follow her food adventures on Twitter and Instagram.






The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Jewish Salsa Dancer of the Week: Abby!

Jewish community professional by day, salsa dancer by night. Get to know this aspiring meditation guru and BBQ loving foodie. She’s pretty cool.

abbyAllie: How did you decide to become a Jewish community professional?

Abby: I went to college thinking I was going to the best physical therapist ever, and then realized science was not my thing. Then, I went on a Birthright Israel trip and it changed my life. It made me realize that I’m passionate about the history of Judaism and what it means for the rest of the world. After that, I declared Jewish Studies as my major. (Working at The Jewish Federation,) I love getting people passionate about something bigger than themselves. If you love what you do and you get paid for it, it’s a win-win.

Allie: I hear you were a part of an a capella group at college…tell me about that.

Abby: I’ve always been into the performing arts. I did show choir in high school, and musicals have been a passion of mine. At college, I auditioned for the Jewish a capella group on (Ohio State’s) campus MeshugaNotes, and I was in that for all of college. It was nice to do something that I loved and sing in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish. We got to travel, and it was a great group of people to be with.

Allie: What kinds of hobbies do you do today?

Abby: I was a very hyperactive child, I played lots of sports, I did dancing, musicals, pianos, all of the things. I wasn’t trained in Latin dance, but we had a family friend from Mexico and when they would have parties that would turn into a dance fest. I love watching dancing shows, and I pick up (dancing) pretty easily. I tried to seek out (places to go dancing) in DC. There is salsa dancing somewhere every single day of the week. My favorite place to go is this place called Bachata Brunch. I love it. I go as much as I can. And it’s free, there’s no cover. Since I’m surrounded by the Jewish community all the time, sometimes it’s nice to have another community I can go to.

dancingAllie: What do you like most about salsa dancing?

Abby: It’s so freeing. It’s a workout so I don’t have to run on the treadmill and be bored. There’s loud music, and it’s fun – you can just get lost in it. It makes me feel fun and empowered.

Allie: Describe your dream DC day…

Abby: I still have so much of DC I have to explore. So I would want to find a brunch place I’ve never been to before, then go to a museum I’ve never been to before, you can see a pattern. I like having adventures and trying new things. My ideal day would be to have someone take me to places I’ve never been to before for an entire day so I could get a feel for new things.

Allie: What’s on your travel bucket list?

Abby: Oh yeah. I want to hit all 7 continents and all 50 states in my lifetime. I want to get to Antarctica by the time I’m 30 because it’s a really hard trip to do and you need a lot of energy for it.

Allie: What are you most excited about this summer?

Abby: I’m excited to staff another Birthright Israel bus. And I’m looking forward to getting a new Young Leadership Board at Federation.

Allie: What is your favorite smell?

Abby: I really like warm, woody smells like teak and mahogany. Any candles that smell like men’s deodorant is a really soothing smell for me. It’s a mellow, relaxing vibe.

Allie: Do you have a favorite dating app?

Abby: Funny story, my sophomore year of college they did a pilot program for Birthright Israel ambassadors, and the marketing agency overseeing the program was the same one David Yarus (the JSwipe Founder) was working at. He posted in our Facebook group “Hey guys, I’m launching this new dating app, tell me what you think.” I’ve actually used JSwipe a lot, because it kind of works. But I’m sort of taking a dating hiatus right now.

birthright bus

Allie: What’s your favorite way to celebrate Shabbat?

Abby: I turn off my phone and computer on Shabbat. It’s a hard thing to do when you’re constantly busy, but I’ve been doing this for almost two years now. It’s a really good mental break during the week. Everyone is so plugged in now, and there is this instant gratification when you get a message that is very anxiety driven.

So, I don’t have a designated place I go to on Shabbat, but turning off my phone is something I do every week.

Allie: How do you like to relax?

Abby: Realistically, I play a couple puzzle games on my phone, and watch some random videos on YouTube. Ideally, I love meditation. For me, it’s really easy to get caught up in what I’m doing. So anything that I can do to take a step back, take a deep breath, and be present. Like listening to music, or going to sit at a park overlooking the water. Something that is not me having to engage, where I can just be.

Allie: If you could eat 3 foods for the rest of your life what would they be?

Abby: Oh, this is hard because I’m such a foodie. I’ll say pulled BBQ meat, coleslaw, and blueberries. Or anything my mom cooks.

Allie: Any fun facts people may not know about you?

Abby: I just got accepted to a grad program at GW! The iCenter in Chicago is partnering with GW for the inaugural academic certificate program in Israel education. I just found out about this.

Allie: Complete this sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Abby: Miracles happen.

abby drinking coffee

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.